The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education has decided to delay the ratification of the District’s tentative agreement with the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) until January due to concerns about funding the five percent salary increase for the teachers.
Paul Silvern, chair of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee (FOC), told the Board his committee had “very serious concerns about the District’s ability to finance the five percent increase that has been negotiated with the Teachers Association, and we have serious concerns about the process for reaching that conclusion without having first put in place a strategy for how to pay for it. That is…only now being formulated after being initialed by the bargaining parties.”
Silvern then stated the process “we believe undermines the public confidence in the District’s ability to manage its finances” which could influence future agreements with the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and future renewals of the parcel taxes used to help fund programs in the District. He also pointed out that the State-required AB 1200 analysis that the District must file with the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), which “projects out over three years what impact the labor settlement would have on District finances” was troubling. In the analysis, there was a “split certification between the Superintendent and the District’s Chief Financial Officer about whether the District can pay for it. That raises an immediate red flag with LACOE. The raise “will cause funds to be drawn out of the District’s reserve account so by the third year the legally-required reserve can’t be funded.”
The FOC chair concluded by mentioning that a November 1 letter to School Board President Julia Brownley noted the District “needed a recovery plan” so the reserve can be funded. His committee recommended waiting until January to finalize the agreement so District staff could receive input at a public workshop and then develop the recovery plan.
The Board’s vote supported the committee’s recommendation. Board members agreed with Superintendent Dianne Talarico that “the single most important influence on the achievement in the School District is the instruction that goes on in the classroom. It’s going to be extremely difficult to retain and recruit given the cost of living here. The salaries must be competitive for that reason.”
Harry Keily, President of SMMCTA, stressed, “This collective bargaining agreement was reached in good faith. We can work together to ensure funding of this agreement is met and that we’re able to retain and attract high quality teachers in this District. The five percent pay increase is commensurate or below what other Districts are offering.”
The only Board member who disagreed was Shane McCloud. McCloud, a teacher, stated that he believes the money is not available and could only be found by preventing “us from paying for other improvements” such as reducing class sizes at Santa Monica High School and John Adams Middle School. He also criticized the need for a recovery plan by noting, “We’re spending more than we can afford.” McCloud, who was not reelected, then concluded, “I did not make these issues public when I was running for reelection. I didn’t want to jeopardize the passage of the bond [Measure BB]. We need a contract that balances out professionalism with financial responsibility.”